The effects of dystocia can put a calf at a higher risk of death or illness in the first four months of life. Unfortunately, it may be difficult to determine which calves require extra care. Care may include frequently taking a calf's temperature and possibly keeping dystocia calves in tagged hutches or pens.

The following are some tips on caring for calves with dystocia:

  • Feed extra colostrum for the first and second days of life. 
  • Provide oxygen by means of clearing the airway and removing any fluid or physical obstruction. These calves tend to suffer a greater-than-normal degree of birth asphyxia and they will not breathe like a normal calf.
  • Stimulate the calf by rubbing around the neck and shoulders to help develop strong breathing responses. The calf should be dried off to prevent unnecessary loss of body heat as a result of a wet hair coat. This act of drying in itself is a form of stimulation since it assists the calf in becoming active.
  • Track the calf's temperature at 30-minute intervals. This should be carried out until the calf is strong, active and alert.
  • Watch out for acidosis (excessive acid condition of body fluids). Respiratory acidosis will improve as breathing function improves and metabolic acidosis improves if there is good circulating blood volume. 

These guidelines are useful for any calf, and will not cause harm even if the calf is not suffering negative effects from calving. The DCHA Gold Standards III recommends working with a nutritionist and herd veterinarian to develop the best management practices. 

For more information, refer to the article Overcoming Dystocia.

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